The 11th movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Avengers: Age of Ultron may well be breaking box office records around the world right now but the Camp Nou in the Catalunya region of Spain will be hosting its own record breaking event as Barcelona and Bayern Munich play out the first leg of their Champions League semi final tie.
The home side will hope that there will be plenty of avenging on show following a 7-0 aggregate thumping when the two sides last clashed two seasons ago and with their superhero like forward line in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez we are confident of seeing something special that’ll have us on the edges of our seats. Here’s our match review and Champions League picks.
Betfair.com is a giant in the online gambling industry and their Barcelona v Bayern Munich match odds suggest that it’ll be the Spaniards who’ll take an advantage to the Allianz Arena in a week’s time for the second leg of the tie. The match odds in the Betfair Sportsbook suggest that the bookmakers believe that it’ll be a relatively comfortable victory for the hosts over the German Bundesliga champions too.
Barcelona to win – 1.72
Draw – 3.90
Bayern Munich to win – 5.00
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique will certainly be the happier of the two managers coming into this first leg of the final four stage of the Champions League as he has just a single injury concern on his mind. Left back Jordi Alba is a doubt for the match having trained alone on Monday after reporting discomfort, but if that is all the home side have to worry about then they will be delighted.
Former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, who lifted 14 trophies in charge of the club he spent 11 years at as a player where he lifted seven titles including the Champions League, has far more trouble picking his side for this match due to an ongoing injury crisis. He is certainly missing defenders David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and attacker Arjen Robben who scored the Champions League winning goal two seasons ago. Javi Martinez, Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski are all doubts after returning from missing the majority of the season, an ankle injury and facial injuries that include a broken nose respectively.
The home side will certainly bring massive amounts of confidence onto the Camp Nou pitch for this match as they have triumphed in 15 of their last 16 matches in all competitions in a run that goes back until the end of February. Their only dropped points came at the hands of Sevilla in the league seven games ago as the sides drew 2-2 but since then they have scored 23 goals and conceded just one in six, keeping five clean sheets in a row. Their home form has seen 24 wins in 26 matches this season, while they have nine and drawn one of ten home Champions League matches since losing 3-0 to this evening’s opponents two seasons ago at this stage of the competition.
Once again Bayern are the side suffering more than their hosts as they bring a two game winless streak into the final four stage of Europe’s premier football competition. They were beaten on penalties in the semi final of the German Cup by Borussia Dortmund before losing 2-0 at Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend in the league. However, with the number of injuries to the squad, the fact that the title is already theirs and they were resting players after 120 minutes mid-week and in anticipation of this match up with Barcelona these results must be taken in context. Despite this, they have not travelled well in the Champions League this season as 1-0 and 7-1 wins at CSKA Moscow in the group stage were followed by a loss to Manchester City when qualification was already secured before drawing 0-0 at Shakhtar Donetsk and losing 3-1 in Porto. They’ll need to turn things around if they’re to bring an advantage back home for the second leg of this tie, but is this possible with their injury list?
These two sides are very familiar with each other and the managers even more so as they were team-mates and fellow coaches at Barcelona, but the only result that is remembered in recent times between the sides in the 7-0 aggregate pummelling that the Germans inflicted at this stage of the competition two seasons ago with a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou following on from a 4-0 win at the Allianz Arena. The time before that meeting saw Barcelona win 5-1 on aggregate in the 08/09 season quarter finals as the Spaniards went on to lift the title by beating Manchester United 2-0 in the final, but which of these two sides will rise from their recent defeats – Bayern in the lead up to this match and Barcelona in their last meeting with the Germans – to triumph in the archetypical superhero storyline?
With Barcelona’s fantastic home record and Bayern having shown that they can be troubled on the road, we feel that this first leg of the second Champions League semi final is priced up correctly as the home side are certainly capable of winning this match with their all star attacking trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez able to take apart any defence in the world. Bayern will not go down easy though and this match promises to be a gripping 90 minutes of football with plenty of action and, we feel, goals. As a result of this our money is to back Barcelona to win this first leg and there to be +2.5 goals in the match at odds of 2.50 in the Betfair Sportsbook as the Spaniards avenge that 7-0 aggregate loss in style.